Monday, November 20, 2017

Round 1: McPhee vs. Balboa

Let me tell you about a connection I wasn't expecting to make.

Earlier this week, I finished reading John McPhee's Draft No. 4. That collection of essays has left me with a lifetime of writing-craft matters to ponder. I'm picking one from page 82 for this slice:
No one will ever write in just the way that you do, or in just the way that anyone else does. Because of this fact, there is no real competition between writers. What appears to be competition is actually nothing more than jealousy and gossip. Writing is a matter strictly of developing oneself. You compete only with yourself. You develop yourself by writing.
Daunting and empowering words, though maybe that's just because I'm two-thirds of the way through my truncated whack at National Novel Writing Month. I also find myself reflecting on my role as a responder to student writing due to how McPhee continues the preceding passage. He advises, "An editor's goal is to help writers make the most of the patterns that are unique about them." So I wonder: Am I helping young writers make the most of their distinctness? How might I do better?

The connection I mentioned happened earlier tonight when I finally caught up with a movie from two years ago, Creed. A scene sticking with me is this one:

"Develop yourself" resonates as a powerful mantra, arguably one on which workshop and studio classrooms -- or training gyms -- are built. Yet, notice how Rocky (the teacher) sets up Donnie (the student) to do his work before announcing, "I'm going to leave you two alone for a while."

That's a sweet science to which many educators aspire, and not alone. While we may compete against ourselves, we can collaborate with anyone.


  1. I need to get that book ...

  2. Your post screams "live a writing life" as you clearly see writing moves all around you. Writers write using metaphors. You today remind me that all of life can be a metaphor when we live as a writer. Thanks for posting this today. I'll also keep pondering my competitive and collaborative writing self. Something you have me thinking about. Have a lovely Thanksgiving!

  3. Every writer is their own toughest opponent. A great reflection that has me thinking how I help my students make the most of their uniqueness. teaching, like boxing, is a sweet science.

  4. Good on you for taking on NaNoWriMo! I overheard people talking about it at NCTE and couldn't help but thinking that I need to make the time for that (one of these Novembers).